PROVO — The Founding Fathers were referring to families and posterity when they spoke of "the pursuit of happiness," Sutherland Institute President Paul T. Mero said Thursday night during a meeting at the Provo Tabernacle that drew a small protest from gay-rights activists.

"The unwritten Constitution of the United States of America…has as its sole objective happiness within a family," Mero said. "America's founding fathers did not fight and die for a theory of happiness…They fought and died for their posterity — for families yet to come. That was their 'pursuit' of happiness."

The program was titled "Family and Faith Matter: Why Utah Holds to Sacred Ground," and Mero's intent was to affirm support of traditional families in Utah.

"A marriage is between one man and one woman bounded by the hope of posterity," Mero told an estimated audience of 300. "If an inherently childless or non-complementary relationship can be called marriage, anything can be called marriage."

Outside the event, a handful of protesters gathered to oppose what they called a "narrow definition" of marriage.

"We're protesting the fact that people who are in love, whether they be gay or lesbian or boyfriend-girlfriend, can't be treated the same way," Lizzie Carrick said.

Some protesters complained the conference name, "Sacred Ground," was a direct play off "Common Ground," a group that organized and lobbied for pro-GLBT legislation during the last legislative session.

"It's obviously poking fun," protest organizer Ash Johnsdottir said. "I think that's a low blow. I'm assuming that by this name they're opposed to basic human rights."

Sutherland Institute communications director Jeff Reynolds said the name had nothing to do with "Common Ground."

"More people understand what 'Sacred Ground' is about," Reynolds said, "so I don't know if there's a need to respond to 'Common Ground.' "

Other speakers at the meeting included Provo resident JoAnne Roberts and Deseret News editor Joseph Cannon, who discussed a series of nine columns he wrote for the paper this summer on the topic of faith, secularism and the modern age.